I sat on a panel and gave a keynote, so I was able to say a lot about the situation. I talked about how the press and politicians keep the population in fear, as well as a few scary minutes challenging the prevailing perspective on the Holocaust, but the two key points I made were these:
- Israel tends to divide the world into “friends of Israel” and “enemies of Israel,” depending on how people and organizations react to the things Israel does. For example, they spent close to an hour at the conference examining headlines about Israel in foreign news outlets, in order to decide which were friends and which were enemies. This kind of black-and-white thinking is typical of a child. I pointed out that someone who loves you may be angry at you, disagree with something you’ve done, and even yell at you, without being your enemy. Many people who love Israel (including lots of Jews in the US) disagree strongly with many of its policies and actions. In my opinion, this behavior is really a symptom of the underlying Jewish limiting belief that “they’re all out to get us.”
- The other key point I made was about the public relations contest going on between Israel and the Palestinians. Each side is trying to convince the world that they are the innocent victims and the other side are the perpetrators. During the panel (which was 100% conducted in Hebrew, an interesting challenge for me), I pointed out that Israel is doomed to lose this battle. In order to win, the Israelis would have to convince the world that they are less powerful than the Palestinians and unable to defend themselves (the definition of “victim”), which would be pretty tough. Successfully becoming the less powerful party in an ongoing battle doesn’t seem like a desirable prize to me, anyway, despite whatever perceived moral high ground it might temporarily convey.
Apparently, I made a sufficient impression that I am being invited to give a workshop at the Foreign Ministry.
I also had an interesting moment with a member of the Knesset who’s running for reelection, when I challenged him to articulate a positive vision for the future of Israel that isn’t some form of problem-solving or survival. He was unable to do it, which didn’t surprise me. I’ve asked this question of Israelis from all walks of life for 5.5 years, and not one has been able to articulate a single positive desire or goal about Israel’s future. In my opinion, this lack positive thinking about its future is a much greater threat to Israel’s survival than its neighbors are. I know of several organizations that have worked to create a shared vision for Israel, and none has been able to get the result to “stick” yet.
Personally, I’m convinced that finding Israel’s higher purpose is an important step before finding its vision. I’m still looking for a leader there who can be the face of such a project, someone who is respected by people across the political spectrum.
There were other great moments, including organizational purpose work with an NGO, an internet technology company and a large kibbutz, but these are the moments that I think you will find most interesting. I’m looking forward to my next trip in late April, when I hope to meet with several politicians about Israel’s purpose.